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grub to help refund of pre-installations

From: Yoshinori K. Okuji
Subject: grub to help refund of pre-installations
Date: Tue, 8 Jul 2008 07:32:40 +0200
User-agent: KMail/1.9.9


Some french-speaking people might have read this, but I would like to explain 
some ideas, since I am involved with this news somehow:,39040745,39382177,00.htm

This news, basically, says that my company will provide a solution to 
activating pre-installed software in a computer, after entering an access 
code with cryptography, using GRUB 2.

That is a response to a public statement from the secretary of the agency for 
consumers in France:

He proposed, in the interview, an idea that computers should display the price 
of pre-installed software in sellers, and so the consumers may have an option 
to get refund (if they don't use it).

We have made the press release, because:

- Many Free Software users, as well as ourselves, have been paying for the 
so-called "Windows Tax", even though they don't use Windows. This is like 
donating money for proprietary software, so even if we use Free Software, we 
are still helping proprietary software. Also, this is clearly a waste of 

- Having an option to select no pre-installed software, can make people aware 
of other possibilities, such as using GNU/Linux. So this promotes the usage 
of Free Software, especially after they recognize how much they have been 
paying for proprietary software, and that it is possible to have an usable 
system, even without paying anything.

- If the solution depends on Microsoft, such as modifying Windows, to follow 
the idea, we can easily guess that Microsoft would be reluctant to deal with 
it, and suspend such a movement for years (if you don't agree, please look at 
the long history of the antitrust case in EU against Microsoft). Also, it is 
a good thing that the solution would be implemented with Free Software, 
because we can study how it works.

However, the article does never mention GNU or my name, because I didn't want 
to imply that it were as if the decision had been made officially. I didn't, 
because of some reasons:

- I hadn't discussed the idea with other developers before. Even if I am the 
official maintainer, I don't like to make an important decision solely by 

- I am not very comfortable with the technology, because it smells like DRM. 
It is not really DRM, because the data is permanently decrypted, once an 
access code is entered, so the user can obtain raw data, and reuse it freely 
from technical point of view. But I still think that it is very similar to 
DRM, so I am very afraid that implementating this kind of feature might 
encourage using GRUB for DRM.

- I know that some people don't want to be involved with any kind of political 
activities or commercial entities, even when it does help Free Software. I 
personally don't agree with such an attitude, but I still need to appreciate 
others' philosophies.

So, my current plan is to help this work only under the name of my company, 
but not as the official maintainer, and I will not incorporate the result 
into the official source code. I might check in patches, when they are 
generally useful, and nothing with DRM. But the very feature will not be a 
part of genuine GRUB, but be provided as a form of a patch. Anyway, GRUB 2 
has been developed in the way that third parties can make extensions easily, 
so it is not hard to maintain an optional feature externally.

Lastly, I would like to note that I wish to see similar decisions in other 
countries. I myself always feel that it is quite silly that we must pay for 
unused software, every time when we purchase a new computer.


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